Gleaning truly useful information is, perhaps, a fools errand. Particularly for the vast majority of us who do not see road games. Particularly when an NHL team cannot even share highlights of a game upon its conclusion, St. Louis. But I digress.
The Dallas Stars have yet to suffer a regulation loss through four games of exhibition play, yet dropped to just 2-0-2 last night after the Blues were able to outlast them beyond 60 minutes for the second time, and it's been a bit of a roller coaster for Lindy Ruff's group.
The offensive fireworks by Valeri Nichushkin and Tyler Seguin of the first game were offset by five goals against and sloppy coverage in front of Dallas netminders. A 3-2 shootout win over the Panthers featured a more veteran defense and far fewer mistakes, though against a green Florida lineup. The 4-1 win over the same bunch on Friday night was more authoritative on paper, but the teams didn't ice much in the way of NHL talent.
Then last night Ruff takes the closest thing we've seen to a potential opening night lineup and sees the ghosts from the franchise's very recent past re-surface.
Consider the events of last night:
The Stars were out-shot 17-9 in the second period. They allowed well over 30 shots in the contest. They allowed their opponent seven power play opportunities while converting just 1 of 6 (16%) of their own. They had a third period lead they couldn't hold on to, and they didn't win the game when it got beyond regulation.
"Part of our game is we don't want to be taking penalties, bad penalties, and we took too many tonight," Jamie Benn said, explaining his first loss as captain.
So everything old was new again.
The good news is that Jamie Benn scored again. The good news is that Tyler Seguin, who now has five points in three preseason games, assisted on both goals. The good news is that Alex Chiasson, who entered camp needing to meet the unrealistic expectations of others after six goals in seven games last season, scores and has three points in three games played.
Indications are that Valeri Nichushkin will be here to start the season. Indications are that Cody Eakin will be a trusted member of the center group. Erik Cole has looked better than at any previous point in Dallas last season next to Seguin and Benn. Ray Whitney does nothing but accumulate points.
There is a lot to like on the front end. The team should score. The team should be entertaining.
It's the back end which is still concerning through four of seven preseason games. Trevor Daley is out with an upper body injury. The extent is unknown at this time. Aaron Rome will not be a player to start the year, and all of that could push Kevin Connauton and Jamie Oleksiak into regular roles and along with Jordie Benn.
Defensively the Stars have surrendered 35, 24, 29, and 36 shots against in four games, good for an average 31 average. Their average last season: Exactly 31.0
Again, it's just preseason. We've yet to see everyone together. There's little physicality in exhibition games, nearly invalidating the results altogether as meaningful hockey.
The rosters will be cut down throughout the week. A dress rehearsal will be had at some point. Rich Peverley's return is on the horizon. The barn will be rocking on October 3rd.
This year will be different, but whether or not it will be different enough is not clear from what we've seen ("seen") so far.